Ac­cre­tive, clients still feel­ing heat

Congress wants more on Ac­cre­tive

Modern Healthcare - - FRONT PAGE - Me­lanie Evans

Ac­cre­tive Health faces a con­gres­sional in­quiry as ex­ec­u­tives moved to de­fend the com­pany’s busi­ness prac­tices fol­low­ing a highly crit­i­cal re­port from Min­nesota’s at­tor­ney gen­eral.

Af­ter a con­ser­va­tive ini­tial re­sponse to the re­port, re­leased April 24, Ac­cre­tive of­fi­cials last week re­peat­edly and stri­dently re­jected the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s find­ings, which said the com­pany may have vi­o­lated fed­eral privacy and con­sumer pro­tec­tion laws while un­der con­tract with Fairview Health Ser­vices, a seven-hospi­tal sys­tem based in Min­neapo­lis.

At­tor­neys for the Chicago-based com­pany said in a let­ter to the at­tor­ney gen­eral dated May 2 that “we have been in­ves­ti­gat­ing the is­sues you raised and it is clear that the in­nu­endo and spec­u­la­tion in your re­port has re­sulted in sig­nif­i­cant mis­in­for­ma­tion.”

The Min­nesota at­tor­ney gen­eral al­leges that Ac­cre­tive ag­gres­sively sought to col­lect from pa­tients as they ar­rived at the hospi­tal and emer­gency room (April 30, p. 6). The com­pany’s col­lec­tors had ac­cess to pa­tients’ med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Ac­cre­tive said in the let­ter that the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s re­port omit­ted in­for­ma­tion. For ex­am­ple, the re­port de­scribed the fa­ther of an emer­gency room pa­tient who re­ceived in­for­ma­tion about costs be­fore his son re­ceived treat­ment. The fa­ther had asked to meet with a fi­nan­cial con­sul­tant, the com­pany said.

News pushed the com­pany’s stock into a slide and prompted at least one other state at­tor­ney gen­eral to be­gin an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Last week, mem­bers of the U.S. House an­nounced an in­quiry and brief­ing. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the com­pany were sched­uled to at­tend the closed brief­ing May 4.

Reps. Henry Wax­man (D-calif.), Diana Degette (D-colo.) and G.K. But­ter­field (D-N.C.) said the find­ings raise ques­tions about whether such debt col­lec­tion prac­tices are com­mon.

“One of our most im­por­tant ques­tions is the ex­tent to which these prac­tices may be more wide­spread than this sin­gle health sys­tem,” the rep­re­sen­ta­tives said in a let­ter to Mary Tolan, CEO of Ac­cre­tive Health.

“One of our most im­por­tant ques­tions is the ex­tent to which these prac­tices may be more wide­spread than this sin­gle health sys­tem.” —Henry Wax­man (D-calif.)

The House mem­bers made a far-reach­ing re­quest for doc­u­ments on the com­pany’s poli­cies and prac­tices. The re­quest in­cluded in­for­ma­tion on com­pli­ance with fed­eral emer­gency room ac­cess, pa­tient privacy and debt col­lec­tion laws. The in­quiry also seeks in­for­ma­tion about em­ployee guid­ance re­lated to pa­tient reg­is­tra­tion and col­lec­tion ef­forts prior to treat­ment and how the com­pany es­ti­mates prices and pa­tient bills.

The rep­re­sen­ta­tives also asked for a list of Ac­cre­tive Health clients. The com­pany has listed some prom­i­nent health sys­tems among its cus­tomers, in­clud­ing In­ter­moun­tain Health­care and As­cen­sion Health. As­cen­sion, the na­tion’s largest pri­vate not-for-profit health sys­tem, was an early in­vestor in Ac­cre­tive Health through the health sys­tem’s ven­ture cap­i­tal arm.

An­other House mem­ber, Rep. Pete Stark (D-calif.) has asked HHS and the CMS to in­ves­ti­gate Ac­cre­tive.

The com­pany’s let­ter also dis­missed claims that it vi­o­lated fed­eral privacy laws as “mis­guided” and called the Fair Credit Re­port­ing Act in­ap­pli­ca­ble.

The let­ter came days af­ter Ac­cre­tive Health asked a fed­eral judge to throw out a law­suit brought by the at­tor­ney gen­eral. The law­suit was filed in Jan­uary af­ter the theft of an Ac­cre­tive lap­top that con­tained pa­tient in­for­ma­tion.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral “lever­aged this iso­lated in­ci­dent to pur­sue a wide-rang­ing, fac­tu­ally base­less and legally mer­it­less at­tack against the full gam­bit of Ac­cre­tive Health’s busi­ness prac­tices,” the com­pany said. And Ac­cre­tive started the week with a sep­a­rate state­ment that blasted the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s find­ings, which the com­pany said “grossly dis­tort and mis­char­ac­ter­ize” its ser­vices.

The Min­nesota at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice de­fended its re­port as “ac­cu­rate and doc­u­mented by the facts.”

“The com­pli­ance re­port is based on the re­view of over 100,000 pages of doc­u­ments and in­ter­views and dis­cus­sions with many peo­ple, in­clud­ing of­fi­cers and di­rec­tors of Fairview,” the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice said in a writ­ten state­ment.

Pa­tients re­ported ag­gres­sive debt col­lec­tion ef­forts by Ac­cre­tive, the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice said, and the com­pany “con­tin­ues to ig­nore the dig­nity and rights of those pa­tients” with its state­ment to the press.

AP PHOTO

Wax­man and other rank­ing mem­bers of the U.S. House have re­quested spe­cific in­for­ma­tion from Ac­cre­tive Health.

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